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Extended Reality (XR) – The New Wave of Digital Interaction

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The concept of the metaverse remains enigmatic to many, but its foundational elements are already reshaping our interaction with the surrounding environment.

A study by PwC, which surveyed over 5,000 US consumers and 1,000 US business leaders, revealed that half of the consumers find the metaverse intriguing, while two-thirds of executives confirm their companies’ active involvement. Yet, there’s a gap in understanding.

While 45% of business leaders feel they grasp the metaverse, only 19% of consumers share that sentiment. The lack of a unified definition adds to the confusion.

Understanding the XR Components

When we dissect the metaverse, practical applications come to the fore. Extended reality (XR), which encompasses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality, stands out.

XR has the potential to elevate the metaverse from being just a “novelty” to offering tangible products and experiences. Roberto Hernandez from PwC US emphasizes the convergence of various technologies, from AR to immersive 2D to VR, under the umbrella of “Metaverse Technologies.”

As these technologies evolve, consumers will likely adopt more generic terms. Hernandez draws a parallel with how we transitioned from terms like ‘HTML site’ to simply ‘websites’. He believes we’re nearing a similar transition with emerging technologies.

XR’s Potential Impact

Extended Reality (XR) is like a new tool that changes how we see and do things. Think of it as a magic lens that can show us more than what our eyes can see.

In schools, XR can make lessons fun. Students can “travel” to old places, outer space, or inside a science book. For fun and movies, imagine being inside the story, not just watching it.

Doctors can use XR to practice surgeries without real patients. This means they can get better without any risks.

For people who work in places like big buildings or factories, XR can help them see important information. It’s like having smart glasses that tell you if something is wrong or if there’s danger nearby.

Mixed reality is a mix of the real world and the digital world. It can help students learn better. For example, if math is hard, they can see and touch numbers in the air to understand better.

Roberto Hernandez talks about a future where we can watch movies as if we’re inside them. Or for sports fans, imagine being able to pick where you want to sit in a stadium without leaving your house.

In short, XR is a new way to experience our world, making things more exciting and helpful.

Real-world Applications of XR

Training is one domain where XR is making significant inroads. Joe Harrington from PwC US notes that with AR devices and mixed-reality overlays, technicians can tackle complex tasks, from fixing modern HVAC systems to intricate motors.

These professionals can wear headsets to get voice-guided instructions and swiftly access cloud-based resources, leading to efficiency improvements.

Combining XR with other technologies, like the Internet of Things, can also yield promising results. Harrington cites the example of sensors in smart buildings that can monitor water temperature and send alerts, potentially preventing diseases like Legionnaires’.

E-commerce is another sector ripe for XR-driven transformation. Hernandez envisions a future where, instead of viewing static product images, consumers can use a virtual assistant to try on clothes in a virtual environment, closely mimicking the real-world experience.

This could revolutionize purchasing behaviors and reduce product returns.

Metaverse Technologies in Events

The Venice Carnival of February 2023 offers a glimpse into how events traditionally dependent on physical presence are leveraging metaverse technologies.

This virtual event allowed global participation, featuring digital versions of traditional Carnival masks and an array of educational and cultural activities in a specially crafted virtual space. The digital campaign drew users from 19 countries and reached over 6 million individuals.

Alberto Bozzo, from Ve.La S.p.A, which organized the Carnival in collaboration with PwC, believes that promoting the Venice Carnival in the metaverse can attract digitally-savvy generations.

Final Thoughts

The Venice Carnival exemplifies how metaverse technologies can foster novel ways for individuals to connect and experience the world. Companies keen on leveraging these technologies should first understand them and explore their potential applications.

Harrington suggests that businesses should also explore how other emerging technologies, from generative AI to quantum computing, can complement their metaverse strategies. Staying updated on these trends and formulating a strategy for their utilization will be crucial for businesses moving forward.